I just replaced my poor tired battered old Pixel 4 with a garish “Lemongrass” Pixel 7. I just don’t care that much about mobile technology any more — what was the last time a new phone changed your life? — but jumping four years and three generations ought to be newsworthy, no?

Pixel 7

Disclosure: Big fat farmer fingers.

Why? · First question: Why a new phone at all?

My four-year-old Pixel was fast enough, small enough to be comfy in any pocket, camera still one of the mobile greats. But the battery was wearing out and the USB-C socket was pretty well done for. It’d charge most times from most wires, but only if you didn’t breathe on it. And keeping Android Auto running was a real problem, because my car doesn’t do AA-on-Bluetooth, so pretty well any serious bump in the road stopped the music.

Next: Why Pixel? It’s over a decade since I left the Android group, but my heart’s still with that platform. And I still decline to use a general-purpose computer where I have have to get its manufacturer’s approval to give away any code I might write.

Also I’m a paying YouTube Music customer and Android Auto addict.

Last question: Why the Pixel 7? To be honest, mostly because MKBHD said so (and here). I’ve pretty well outsourced my thinking about mobile devices to him because he seems to share my technical tastes and is fun to watch.

His advice was “The 7a is pretty good but the 7 is better even if it’s six months older, and when it goes on sale it’s a great deal.” So I watched and pounced when it went on sale.

Is it better? · Yeah, it’s a little faster. I doubt I’d have noticed the speed bump from 4 ➔ 5, 5 ➔ 6, or 6 ➔ 7, but from 4 ➔ 7 you can feel it. I guess the 90Hz screen helps.

The display’s not just faster, it’s better. At least that’s what my eyes tell me when I look at my pictures.

The big suprise was Android Auto. It syncs up with the car faster, and Google Maps got a big shot in the arm; sharper-looking and better-positioned on the screen.

Dislikes · It’s too big, doesn’t slide easily into the car’s mobile holder. I guess I’m in a tiny minority in liking smaller devices. Oh well.

The fingerprint reader is meh and is stupidly on the front of the phone, unlike my fingers, which go on the its back.

TBD · 5G? I remain skeptical. We’ll see. I spend a considerable amount in the boat/office tethered to the hot spot; we’ll see if that improves.

Well, and of course the camera. I’m 100% sure I’ll have more to say about that, and will be sharing its fruits.

The real lesson · Phones are nowhere near the white-hot center of tech innovation any more. I was there when they were and boy, was it ever fun. Golden ages all end.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Matěj Cepl (Jun 10 2023, at 03:10)

> It’s too big, doesn’t slide easily into the car’s mobile holder. I guess I’m in a tiny minority in liking smaller devices. Oh well.

Not sure about the tiny minority, but I am completely with you on this. I really liked Nokia with 5.2" LCD. Those were the days!

> The fingerprint reader is meh and is stupidly on the front of the phone, unlike my fingers, which go on the its back.

Also, why did Nokia moved their fingerprint reader to that silly small button on the side? Button on the back side (just below the camera) was much better.


From: Christof (Jun 10 2023, at 04:57)

I just went 4a -> 7a, with very similar experience.

The reason I am going for the a-series is price and size. The 7a is a little bit smaller than the 7.

I'm also not ready to pay more than 500 Euro for a phone, even that seems to be a lot.

A cadence of three years seems about right. The battery in the 4a lasted just half a day at the end.

I nearly went for the Sony Xperia 5, which probably would have been fine and cheaper, but I do enjoy the pure Android experience from Pixels.


From: Michael Loukides (Jun 10 2023, at 05:47)

Just did the same thing, for exactly the same reasons, except that I was upgrading from a Pixel 2. Going 2 -> 7, the camera is noticeably better. (And I'm not a camera person...) I don't do games, so performance isn't a big issue, though I have noticed that it is much faster at updating apps.

But I wouldn't have made the change if the USB-C connector hadn't gone flaky, and the battery hadn't started pooping out in temps below 50 (F).


From: Nathan (Jun 10 2023, at 06:43)

I also prefer smaller phones. I have the Pixel 4a (not the 5g-branded one, the original) which is the correct size for my hands. It's a health issue for me, not just a personal preference, as I have a joint disease that means any phone over 6" will dramatically increase my joint pain. Small and light is the order of the day for me.

In any case, I have long been a fan of Google's 'a' lineup of mid-tier-with-flagship-tier-cameras phones, and historically they have tended to be smaller than their non-a counterparts. Unfortunately, the 7a demonstrates that Google are not that interested in making a sub-6" phone these days. So I'm still on my aging 4a.


From: Brad Smith (Jun 11 2023, at 07:51)

Pixel 7 owner. I am using the fingerprint scan to unlock a phone for the first time. I typically hold the phone in my left hand so it seemed natural to use my left thumb for the fingerprint. Most of the time I can unlock the phone with one hand. Generally pleased with the phone.


From: Stephen Shankland (Jun 13 2023, at 17:21)

I preferred the fingerprint sensor on the back, too, for fast wakeup when taking the phone out of my pocket, with the circular indentation guiding my finger to the right spot. After 1.5 years of using the screen sensor (Pixel 6 Pro and 7 Pro) I'm getting used to it but still find it fiddly becaus I have to get the placement right, which takes more thought. It worked better once I realized I had to press harder on the screen than I was used to for other fingerprint sensors.

Re. size, you're not alone, but you're a minority, judging by the main options from Apple/Samsung/Google/etc. I prefer more pocketable phones, but my eyesight is not so hot for tiny text nowadays. Pixel 7 is about the right size for me, I think, but my daily driver is Pixel 7 Pro because 5x camera.


From: seano (Jun 18 2023, at 04:53)

I'm on the Apple side of things, but in a very similar position: I will eventually upgrade my phone (iPhone SE to 13 mini), but mainly because of the battery and charging port wearing to the point of uselessness. The new camera will probably be nice, but I don't care too much despite taking a lot of phone photos. The 13 looks like the last reasonable-sized phone Apple (or anyone?) will make, so I'll nurse it along as long as I can.

Other than keeping up with software bloat, phones have become good enough.


From: Tim (but not THE Tim) (Jun 22 2023, at 22:06)

I too am a fan of smaller pocketable phones - but not at the price point of a Samsung Flip or new Lernovorola Razr. I tried a Blu Vivo 5 Mini for a while. It was the right size but it was too slow to load email and things I was using while consulting at that time.

Surely small phone lovers can't be that tiny of a minority - but I think gamers and movie watchers have taken over the imaginations of phone designers.


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June 09, 2023
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